Chauffeur denies driving like 'road hog'

A CHAUFFEUR has denied “driving like a complete road hog” in the moments leading up to a horrific car crash which left a young woman paralysed from the neck down.

Annie Davidson

A CHAUFFEUR has denied “driving like a complete road hog” in the moments leading up to a horrific car crash which left a young woman paralysed from the neck down.

Paul Prior had been driving his Audi A8 at speeds of up to 120mph before it collided with a Peugoet 206 on the A120 near Stansted Airport, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

Peugeot driver Cate Stephens suffered horrific injuries in the crash which saw her car career from the road and flip over before coming to rest on its roof in a field.

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A qualified physiotherapist at Colchester Garrison, she was left paralysed from the neck down and had to sign papers relating to the court case using a pen in her mouth.

Prior, of Westcliff-on-Sea, has admitted one count of dangerous driving, but denied a charge of causing grievous bodily harm on September 12, 2006.

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Yesterday at Chelmsford Crown Court Prior described the moments leading up to the accident to the jury of five men and seven women.

A self-employed chauffeur with his own company Priority Executive Chauffeurs, the 38-year-old was on his way to collect a client from Stansted Airport and planned to stop at a garage and have his car cleaned.

He told the court he had been moving some paperwork as he drove because he wanted to phone someone he was working for the following day once he reached the garage.

He said he reached down into the storage section of the driver's door and put the papers onto the passenger seat - but said he had done this by the time the crash happened.

Prior also could not find a company credit card which he needed to pay for fuel and the car wash once he reached the garage.

“I started to play the previous day through in my head - I had had three or four clients that day and with the last client I paid for a car park,” he said. “I started to think, had I left the client in the car with the card or what had I done with it?”

Prior said he had not seen the Peugeot “until I hit it” and added he had “no reason to want to collide with another motor vehicle on the road.”

He said he knew the “catastrophic” injuries suffered by Miss Stephens, 26, were his fault and added: “I have put on four-and-a-half stone and I sleep very badly.

“I don't find it easy to talk about it.

“I think about her (Miss Stephens) more or less every day.”

Cross-examined by Rex Bryan, prosecuting, Prior denied he was in a hurry on the day of the accident and said his last recollection was driving at between 80 and 85mph.

Mr Bryan asked Prior why he did not just stop to find the client's phone number rather than handling the paperwork as he drove.

“That's a good question - I don't know,” Prior answered.

“You were driving like a complete road hog, weren't you?” said Mr Bryan.

“Not to my knowledge,” Prior replied.

The trial continues.

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